I am a Christian woman married to a Christian man and our marriage has been, and is, difficult. I am, at times, a lonely married woman. My husband is not only aware of this, he is in the same boat as I am. And as much as I know how shocking those statements can look in black and white, I know that I know that I know that I am not the only woman out there who feels this way.

Before I go on, let me tell you why I'm writing about this. Because I've had too many women walk up to me after a speaking engagement and bend down, with tears in their eyes, and whisper a confession that they are in a hard marriage. I can tell that, and for the most part, I am the first person they are telling this to. And my heart breaks for each and every one of them. Because I know what they are feeling and because it kills me that they each think they're the only ones who are going through this, and that they feel the need to keep it to themselves. So I'm writing this as liberation. First, for me: to take off the mask so that each of my readers knows that no, I do not have my act all together. And for you… you, the reader, so that you can know for a fact that no, you are not alone, sweet girl.

For reasons that I am not going to get into here, my marriage is hard. Like, harder than the average hard. (And my husband would agree.) Over the years, I have struggled with every emotion over this fact - from denying its reality, to anger with God for letting this happen, to anger with myself for the choices I made that got me where we are today, to resignation, to loss of hope, to now… utter determination.

Because somewhere along the way, I started to realize something. I am a much, much stronger woman and follower of Jesus because of my difficult marriage. That's right--- I said because.

And I have noticed something shifting in me over the years. Subtle changes in how I have come to respond to the marriage disappointments. Softer words. Less anger. Less bitterness. Fewer tears along the way… though I know I've cried a river in my lifetime, fewer tears come these days. A defiant, stubborn bravery has replaced my resignation.

That really, if a demanding marriage is the biggest obstacle I have to deal with for the rest of my life… if that is what God is calling me to… I can do that for another fifty years. I don't have HIV, my kids don't bathe in dirty puddles of water that they also must drink from, I'm healthy and have my wits about me, I've got friends and I've got Jesus. So if this is my thorn in the flesh then God's grace is more than enough for me. And what He's showing me is that He is, indeed, completely enough for me, through and through.

I know that some of you may have already walked away from marriage circumstances not as difficult as mine. And some of you will stay through things I can't even imagine. And there is grace enough to cover it all. There is grace and grace and more grace for each one of you… for each one of us.

But for those of us who are staying, let me say this. There is a beauty in the holding on when you don't think you can anymore. And, frankly, as this isn't all that practical in our day-to-day lives, I'm not sure if this will come as encouragement to you or not… but it does to me when I let it sink in. There is a beauty in the hoping that there will be a few more jewels in my marriage crown just because I stayed that will help me honor Christ more when I see Him face to face.

But here's some good news. I'm growing, and I'm being restored. I'm being healed. We're being healed. God does still heal, if you're wondering. Our circumstances are changing for the deep better, I can say gratefully. And even though a circumstance may stay relatively the same for the rest of your life, you, my friend can change and grow and be renewed inwardly day by day by day.